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Taiyuan, China

Undergrad Education

Zhejiang University, Management/Entrepreneurship, 2010

Previous Experience

Strategy& (formerly Booz & Co.); Daimler Greater China Ltd.; Shenzhen BYD Daimler New Technology Co., Ltd.

“As long as you learn, you can improve.”

Yubo Cui is a determined bridge builder. He defied his parents’ insistence that he immediately pursue graduate school after college “They said, if I went to work first, I would learn nothing!" Yubo launched his career at Daimler Greater China, serving as a liaison between the German company and its Chinese stakeholders. In a joint venture with BYD Auto, Daimler was determined to develop and manufacture an affordable electric car.

“Our goal was to make it a family car, not a luxury toy,” says Yubo. “We worked ridiculously hard to reduce the cost and to make manufacturing as efficient and precise as possible by determining demand and building only what was absolutely necessary.”

In addition to the language barriers, the two companies faced a clash of cultures. “The Germans took pride in tradition and quality,” Yubo says. “The Chinese wanted a fast way to introduce the car to the market, then improve upon it. I wasn’t an engineer—my job was to be a bridge between the partners.”

After the development phase, Yubo shifted gears to take on an even greater challenge: streamline operations by cutting forty percent of the company’s senior management team. Although the process was painful, Yubo believes the experience prepared him for admission to HBS.

Determined to get the best business education possible

Back in 2009, Yubo had participated in a summer school program at University of California, Davis, which allowed him to visit a variety of American business schools. His visit to HBS “changed my life. I was really surprised that you needed to have work experience to get in.” From that point on, Yubo took “every opportunity at Daimler to make my profile more convincing for an MBA program.”

His first HBS application was rejected. But after taking more time to improve his GMAT scores and, he believes, “taking a leadership role in the joint venture’s reorganization initiative,” Yubo’s second application to HBS succeeded.

Now in his EC year, Yubo sees the “beauty of HBS” in “the diversity of students and how you can learn from them. No matter what I want to do, I can find somebody who has worked in that area.”

After graduation, Yubo intends to return to his first love, the auto industry, and has accepted an offer from Ford to participate in its rotational Ford Business Leader Program. “Now I’ll be able to say that I’ve worked within the legacies of two auto giants, Karl Benz and Henry Ford. The first one invented the automobile; the second created the automotive industry.”

Where others may view the prospects for these aging giants with skepticism, Yubo sees hope. “As long as you learn, you can improve. I saw that my colleagues at BYD and Daimler were hungry for knowledge, eager to improve. That’s amazing! There’s a reason these brands have existed for 100 years. In the end, they’ll seize the opportunity to transform themselves.”